Thursday, August 4, 2011

American Ladies

This year marked the second year with American Ladies Vanessa virginiensis. Our hostplants were more established, so I didn't find myself repeating last year's ritual of find Pearly Everlasting in the field every three days!

The new method for this year was to take small sections of Pussytoes Antennaria neglecta and root them in smaller pots. The former method was to simply add leaves to the container as needed; but this seemed to force the AL cats to make nests more frequently than they might do in nature. The new method allowed the cats to make nests in whole plants.

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The method had mixed success. The major problem was that I inadvertently put a large cat in with several eggs and 1st instar cats. They all disappeared but one.

The overly hungry caterpillar...

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The key to success seems to be to provide two plants per caterpillar.

JRC
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Summer at the Butterfly House

So where have the postings gone?

Basically, we've been busy (gardening, life, work) or gone (PA, NH). But in between, we've had various butterfly visitors.

May saw the release of several Spicebush Swallowtail and Black Swallowtails that had overwintered as pupae.

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The girls also tried their hand at raising Cabbage Whites (translation: daddy fed the caterpillars).

Then summer began in earnest. We had many, many American Lady eggs laid on Pussytoes. Some of those came inside and we experimented with using whole plants as food, with mixed success. A friend "donated" a clutch of (unwanted) Black Swallowtails on parsley. We successfully raised the caterpillars to chrysalises on a new hostplant, Golden Alexanders -- only to have all but two pupae die mysteriously. Variagated Fritillaries, Monarchs, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Orange Sulfurs were all raised.

The exciting moment of Summer 2011, however, was finding 25 Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor caterpillars on July 12 that had stripped some Virginia Snakeroot Aristolochea serpentaria bare. This was a great moment because our pipevines had gone without caterpillars for their entire four year lifespans.

The cats naturally came in. Here's one, looking rather alien-like:

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They're even cuter en masse:

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Leaving for vacation on July 20 required turning all of our caterpillars loose on various hostplants. One consolation was that there was yet another batch of Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars on the large pipevine Aristolochea macrophylla. Sure enough, on return we found five of those caterpillars -- along with many chewed leaves and frass, which suggests that the original 25 did not all perish.

A significant new change was the creation of a large caterpillar cage -- THE Butterfly House -- that will keep caterpillars off the back porch. The five PVS cats are currently testing it out for me.

JRC
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In the Yard 8/4/2011

Seen today between 1 and 3 PM (no pics):

5 Tiger Swallowtails Pterourus glaucus, including one dark-form female
1 Orange Sulfur Colias eurytheme
2 Cabbage Whites Pieris rapae
4 Buckeyes Junonia coenia
1 Variegated Fritillary Euptoieta claudia
3 Eastern Tailed Blues Cupido comyntas
1 Zabulon Skipper Poanes zabulon male
4 Tawny-Edged Skippers Polites themistocles, 3 male 1 female.
3 Peck's Skippers Polites peckius, all male.
1 Sachem Atalopedes campestris female.
several Silver-Spotted Skippers Epargyreus clarus

Oh: and one very large and fat Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor caterpillar. :)

JRC Read more...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hairstreak Season Begins

There was a fresh Banded Hairstreak Satyrium calanus in the yard today -- a dark form. This is much earlier than I usually see them. What does this portend for other hairstreak species this year?

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011

We went biking along the Potomac today. Wingstem Verbesina alternifola and Nettles Urtica sp. are in abundance there, along with Paw-paw trees. We saw several Eastern Commas, Spicebush Swallowtails, Zebra Swallowtails, Red Admirals, and a couple of Sulphurs. I looked on the Wingstem for caterpillars or nests of the Silvery Checkerspot Chlosyne nycteis, but no luck.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Garden Plan

In previous years, I would plan the garden on paper, lose the paper, find the paper, and then end up (because of meager art skills) with a plan that only somewhat approximated the real thing.

This year, the cluestick fell on my head: I can use Photoshop to label a photograph!

The new and improved garden plan...

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May 7 - 10, 2011: Swallowtails and Ladies

This week, the Black Swallowtails started emerging. There are 17 chrysalises that overwintered in the cage. A male emerged on 5/7 and a female on 5/9. Both were small and had more orange than usual on the underside.

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes
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We also found six Cabbage White caterpillars on Yellow Rocket.

Cabbage White Pieris rapae on Yellow Rocket Barbarea vulgaris
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And finally, we found 13 American Lady eggs on the Pussytoes in the garden.

American Lady Vanessa virginiensis egg on Pussytoes Antennaria plantaginifolia
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The plan had been to leave them on the plant, since the caterpillars make nests that make them harder to raise in cages. However, by the next day, the eggs had been found by ants.

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There are two eggs in the picture. The ant was working on the one on the right for at least half an hour, encircling it and working on it with his mouth. Presumably, he was aiming to detach it from the leaf and take it back to the nest.

In any event, we did not want the eggs to go for ant food, so we brought them inside on A. plant. sections that went into pots. The hope is that the plants will root and provide food for the caterpillars.

JRC
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